Collaboration between Extension and IVCC benefits school programs and food pantry clients

Plants are ready for distribution outside of the Hall Township Food Pantry thanks to a collaboration between IVCC and the University of Illinois Extension. (Photo contributed)

OGLESBY - This spring, agriculture program coordinator and instructor Willard Mott requested assistance from the University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardeners for an initiative started by his Ag Club members. The initiative was to provide more fresh produce and live plants to food pantry clients within LaSalle County and other surrounding counties.

In March, the Extension Master Gardener program donated 48 seed packets of over 15 types of vegetables to the IVCC Ag Club including peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and cabbage, to name a few. Ag Club members, with assistance from the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, planted, then tended the seeds in the IVCC on-campus greenhouse for six weeks. The result was more than 1,000 plants ready for donation to Extension’s Master Gardener community service projects and local food pantries located in LaSalle and Bureau counties.

Plants were donated to the DePue Little Giants 4-H Afterschool program garden, the Marseilles School 4-H Seeds to Harvest program garden, and the Master Gardener Community Garden Plant-A-Row project in Ottawa. The plants delivered to the DePue and Marseilles schools supported a curriculum for 3rd through 5th-grade students on the basics of plants and creating a successful garden. Plants donated to the Plant-A-Row project will result in fresh produce to be delivered throughout the summer season to LaSalle County food pantries.

Remaining plants were disseminated to food pantry clients of the Ottawa Food Basket, Mendota Area Christian Food Pantry, Illinois Valley Food Pantry, Hall Township Food Pantry, and Sheffield Food Pantry. Plants were distributed to participating food pantries by University of Illinois Extension INEP staff on May 21-22. Approximately 800 plants were given away at these five locations so fresh produce could be enjoyed throughout the growing season.

The collaboration was a great success and will be organized again for the spring of 2020. U of I Extension expressed its appreciation to the IVCC Agriculture Department for this great partnership opportunity to serve area residents.

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